A Soft Place to Fall

A new baby, around-the-clock feedings, sleep deprivation, a tight budget—and a gift that will never be forgotten.

A soft place to fall

by Kate Haas

photo courtesy of Trent Lanz

filed under Parenting, True Stories

Shortly after our first child was born, my husband and I ventured out to the mall. It was a mundane shopping expedition, but making it out of the house with the baby and his accouterments felt like a logistical triumph, almost as exciting as going on a date together once did.  

We were barely inside the building when the crying began. Parents for only four weeks, we recognized that hungry wail. Quickly assessing our options, we ducked into a furniture showroom and made for some rocking chairs in a corner.  I unstrapped the baby from his carrier and sat down.

“Whoa!” I said in surprise.

The chair I’d chosen was a high-end glider with a $489 price tag. Its smooth motion and cushy upholstery made me feel like I was floating. Constructed of sturdy hardwood, the chair was glossed to a lovely shine, and its cushioned arms were positioned perfectly to support mine as I held the baby. At home, I’d been feeding him on our old couch, my arms propped up by a precarious stack of cushions. It worked, but it wasn’t optimal.

“This is amazing,” I said, smiling in relief as the baby quieted.

My husband studied me. It had been a rough month. Our fussy baby nursed around the clock and rarely slept. We were both exhausted, unsure of our new roles, but I was finding motherhood particularly stressful. He hadn’t seen me smile much lately.

“Let’s get this chair,” he said, suddenly.

I eyed my habitually frugal husband in mild alarm. We had planned and saved carefully so I could stay home for a few years. But he worked at a non-profit, and our budget had no room for fancy furniture.

“You know we don’t have the money,” I said.

“We have Aunt Judy’s check.”

All our relatives had sent gifts for the baby. But my husband’s aunt had surprised us with a check for five hundred dollars.

“That’s supposed to start his college fund,” I protested.

My husband scooted another chair close, to face me. “Shrimpo here won’t go to college for 18 years,” he said. “What he needs right now is you. Feeling happy and relaxed. The way you do now.”

The chair was delivered the next day.

I spent much of the next year on that glider, rocking our baby, feeding him, learning to be a mother. Fifteen years later, the wood is scuffed and the upholstery is stained, but it glides as smoothly as ever. Each time I sit in it, I’m reminded of those difficult days of new parenthood, when I was too tired to think beyond caring for the baby, but when my husband was able to reach beyond the fatigue, to care for me.

Kate Haas is a senior editor at Literary Mama and a writer in Portland, Oregon.


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